15 Cognitive Biases that Prevent Us From Thinking Rationally

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When we make decisions or judgments, we often use mental shortcuts. The purpose of mental shortcuts is to ease the “cognitive load” of making decisions.

Mental shortcuts are helpful because they allow us to make quick decisions, but sometimes they result in “thinking errors” or so-called cognitive biases. We should be aware of these biases because they prevent us from thinking rationally.

The Impact Bias – People overestimate the intensity and duration of their emotional reactions to future events. Read more…

The Hindsight Bias – People tend to view events are more predictable than they are. Read more…

Memory Bias – People are more accurate at estimating present time pressure (i.e., stress) than past time pressure due to recall difficulties, leaving the impression that life appears to speed up as they become older. Read more…

The Certainty Effect – The certainty effect happens when people overweight outcomes that are considered certain relative to outcomes that are merely possible. Read more…

The Halo Effect – People rely on overall, first hand, impressions. Read more…

Free Will Bias – People perceive their past and future as less predictable than the futures of their peers, and that there are more possible ways for their lives to go. Read more…

Optimism Bias – People expect that bad experiences are highly unlikely. Read more…

Actor-Observer Bias – People view their own actions as caused by the situational context, while others’ actions are seen as caused by personality or stable dispositions. Read more…

The Endowment Effect – People tend to overrate the value of stuff. Read more…

Judgmental Bias – People perceive a burden, such as wearing a heavy backpack, as less burdensome, when a social purpose is given. Read more…

Medium Maximization – People tend to focus on immediate outcomes such as money instead of final outcomes such as happiness. Read more…

Representativeness Heuristic – People tend to judge the likelihood of an event by how well it matches their existing prototypes of such events. For example, people only consider the most promiment cues when they judge other people because they rely on the idea of a prototype (or stereotype). Read more…

Psychological Myopia – People tend to focus on information immediately related to their judgment and to ignore other (less prominent) pieces of information. Because we ignore pieces of information, it makes us think short-sightedly. Read more…

The Temporal Doppler Effect – People tend to feel that the future is closer than the past. Read more…

The Focusing-Effect – People make decisions on the basis of the most distinct information that they have available in their working memory. Other pieces of possibly useful information are excluded. Read more…

Image: Erik Eckel